[This year's news cycle was a vicious one, and left little time for reflection. As 2020 nears its end, we're taking the opportunity to look back on the most important Mercury stories written during the past year. This article was originally published on June 17, 2020. We hope you'll consider making a monthly contribution to the Mercury to help continue our work into next year and beyond.—eds.]
The Portland City Council approved a $5.6 billion annual city budget Wednesday morning, including a 3 percent decrease to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) budget from last year's total. It's the first time the police budget has been decreased—not inflated—in years.
The decision comes in the midst of a local and national uprising against police brutality, one that encouraged City Council to tack on $15 million in last-minute cuts to the initially proposed PPB budget.
"The fact that we received over 67,000 emails [about the budget] has just warmed my heart and spirit and my soul," said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, before casting her vote Wednesday. "The fact that we have thousands of young people taking to the streets to point out the inequities in the system also warms my heart."
The cuts, most of them championed by Hardesty, will dissolve three police units with a history of racial discrimination. One is the Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT), a program known for disproportionally targeting Black Portlanders, another is the School Resource Officer (SRO) program, and the third is PPB's transit police program.
The budget cuts also include subtracting eight jobs—or $1 million dollars—from PPB's Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT), relocating $2.3 million in cannabis tax dollars from PPB toward restorative justice grants, and redirecting $4.8 million to Portland Street Response, a program that sends trained mental health workers to respond to certain 911 calls instead of police.
The cuts leave PPB's budget at $229.6 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1. It's a 3 percent drop from the 2019-2020 budget of $238.1 million. But for some Portlanders, that's not far enough. During public testimony preceding the budget vote, hundreds of Portlanders spoke in favor of drastically downsizing the police budget—some even calling for its immediate dissolution.